By Donna Deedy
Local U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D–Glen Cove), after visiting detention centers along the southern United States border July 13 with 15 other House Democrats, has returned to his Huntington office alarmed. The situation, he said, is awful.
“We need to make the humanitarian crisis at the border priority number one,” Suozzi said. “The system is broken.”
The group toured and inspected facilities that are currently holding Central American migrants seeking asylum and met with several migrant families to hear, first-hand, their experiences and what can be done to help.
“America is better than this,” he said. “I have worked on this issue since before I was elected mayor of Glen Cove in 1993 and I will continue to fight for solutions consistent with our American values.”
During the visit, Suozzi learned that only 20 to 30 migrants seeking asylum are processed each day. This provides an incentive for people to cross in between ports of entry, he said, and once apprehended, they then turn themselves in to seek asylum. In turn, this leads to their detention.
“My recent trip to the border makes it clear that this issue is incredibly complicated and has been for decades. The policies and rhetoric from this administration have exacerbated the problem, permeating a culture of fear that forces many immigrants further into the shadows.”
The congressman is calling for action, insisting that all delegates work together to:
•Address the current humanitarian crisis at the border.
•Secure borders in a smart and effective way.
•Create stability in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that account for almost 90 percent of current immigrants.
•Protect the legal status of Dreamers and people with temporary protective status and their families with renewable temporary protection and a path to citizenship.
The tour coincided with rallies held in Huntington village and across the country and the world in protest of the policies and inhumane practices at U.S. border with Mexico.
Suozzi was a guest on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on July 16, where he said that “the president has, once again, shifted the conversation away from important policy issues toward a racial divide in our country.”
The Rev. Duncan Burns, of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Huntington, attended the Huntington rally “Lights for Liberty” and spoke to the crowd that gathered July 12. Suozzi’s trip to the border, the reverend said, has sparked greater concern.
“We encourage people to raise their voices and to call their members of Congress to urge them to work together to find solutions,” he said. “The Episcopal Church is completely backing both parties to find a solution to this humanitarian crisis.”
U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) did not respond to phone and email requests for comment on his position on the issue.